Having been moved at the last minute to speak to the racism in our country as reflected in the death of George Floyd during the service today, I still felt duty bound to record and share my original sermon as well for this Pentecost Sunday.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:4)
What is your spiritual shape these days? As we go deeper into the type of isolation necessary to keep us safe during this pandemic, many are coming face to face with just how sparse their own spiritual resources have been. As born sinners, we start out with a spiritual deficit that is insurmountable. And when we live life according to strict secularism and materialism that dominates the culture at large, we develop habits of isolation from church, prayer, Scripture, even unrequited service to others that further deepen our spiritual chasm. This leaves us with the anticipated psychological breakdown manifesting as suicide, depression, and debilitating levels of loneliness.
However, Jesus blesses those in such a deficit. He offers forgiveness through the cross and power to overcome sin by his Spirit. He brings us into a new community, a new family in his Church. He equips with tools like Word and sacrament, prayer and outreach to others in word and deed with his message of love – giving us purpose and deepening connection to him and and others. And most of all, he promises never leave us or forsake. We are eternally his as rest rest in his promises.
Gracious Lord, thank you for being my wealth in the midst of my spiritual poverty.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed…”. (Matthew 5:1-3a)
I always get a little chuckle when I hear the phrase, “Too blessed to be stressed.” Especially in the middle of this pandemic. So this micro-sermon starts a short series on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. Today I want to consider what it means to be blessed.
Some preachers wax eloquent on the Greek word translated as blessed (makarios) saying it can be translated “happy”. And while that’s true, pretty quickly we soon find happiness isn’t what’s on Jesus’ mind. Just a quick scan of the verses dissuades such illogical thinking. How many mourners or martyrs are simply ecstatic to be grieving or persecuted to literal death?
I think the key to understanding true blessing is the oft-overlooked opening words that precede the Beatitudes. We are blessed simply having Jesus present and openly communicating with us! What a marvel to have God himself sitting with us! How amazing to know that our Lord deigns to speak to us, sinful mortals that we are! To be blessed is to have God’s presence and Word active in our lives. From this simple starting point, our Savior can speak blessing into any situation we face, as we’ll soon discover in reading the Beatitudes.
Gracious Savior, thank you for blessing me simply by being with me and speaking to me. Amen.
I’ve had some people ask about the 7 practices and the ending prayer in my sermon. The following “Prayer for Extraordinary Grace” captures both. Also, of course, at the very bottom is the service from Sunday for your spiritual edification.
Gracious Lord, we are ordinary sinners in need of extraordinary grace. So trusting in you, Triune God—who made us, redeemed us, and restores all things back to yourself—we gather to hear, reflect, share a meal (at least by faith), and pray. We seek to know Christ as he is revealed in Scripture, in the breaking of bread, and in one another.
Equip us in soul and body to become a fellowship of common saints, growing in grace each day as we commit to:
cheerful and covenantal giving,
a regular cycle of reading the whole Bible,
constant invitation and welcome to those outside the Church,
weekly service to both the Church and the needy, and